Objective: To evaluate the role of Ureaplasma urealyticum (Uu) in the pathogenesis of Reiter's syndrome (RS).
Methods: Infection with Uu was determined in 31 patients with RS and 28 patients with other arthritides by urethral, cervical and synovial fluid (SF) culture and by measuring anti-Uu serum antibody. Infection with Chlamydia trachomatis was determined by examining SF by a direct immunofluorescence technique, by a polymerase chain reaction and by measuring anti-C. trachomatis serum antibody. The proliferative response of SF and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) to Uu antigens in patients with RS was compared to that of a control group. The effect that treatment of 6 patients with RS with ciprofloxacin had on repeated cultures, on titer of anti-Uu antibody and on mononuclear cell reactivity was measured sequentially.
Results: The colonization rate of Uu in patients with RS (74%) was significantly greater than in patients with other arthritides (14%). Genital C. trachomatis isolation and serum anti-C. trachomatis antibody were uncommon in both groups (11 and 13%, respectively). SF mononuclear cells of the patients with RS proliferated specifically in response to Uu antigens [up to 6.9 stimulation index (SI)], as did their PBMC (up to 14.5 SI). In some patients, high anti-Uu antibody titers were measured in the serum. Clinical remission was observed in 4 of 6 patients and correlated with eradication of Uu, decrease in antibody titers and disappearance of mononuclear cell reactivity to Uu antigens.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that Uu might be a causative agent or a trigger in the development of sexually acquired RS.